3 Daring Women Producers take over the Music industry in 2021
We know it, and you know it. Men are still in control of the music industry. According to the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Institute, the number of women writing, performing, and producing hit songs dropped low in 2020.
This fourth annual report analyzed the gender and race/ethnicity of artists, songwriters, producers, and creators across 900 top songs out in the last nine years. Turn out women represent only 21.6% of all artists, 12.6% of all songwriters, and only 2.6% of all producers. The study reveals the rate of women in this industry also decreased from 2019 to 2020. The number of female artists went from 22.5% to 20.2%. Female songwriters declined from 14.4% to 12.9%, and female producers lowered from 5% to 2%.
It’s a pity. Therefore, this observation gets sadder when it comes to production. “Women producers — and particularly women of color — are virtually erased from the music industry,” says Stacy Smith. She’s the Communications professor leading this statement. These results may be discouraging, but this is also a valid reason to battle to get equality.
When a little girl says she wants to play music, people assume she wants to become a singer. That may be true in some cases, but this scheme is a reducer. Sounds So Beautiful stands alongside women musicians and presents three artists. All of them speak their truth and have several points in common, including their desire to share with others. They always believed in their talent, even when people tried to shut doors in front of them. Music guided them to find and defend their identity.
1. Aisha Gaillard on drums: Hit it like a girl!
Let’s start with the Los-Angeles-based drummer-producer Aisha Gaillard. She was only three years old when her aunt took her to an African dance class. However, an African hand drums caught her eyes next to the drummers. She fell in love with it instantly, and the feeling was mutual. Once she played, her aunt noticed her touch was natural. Then, Aisha Gaillard went on a Monday evening drum workshop in Leimert Park at a music venue called the World Stage. Jazz musician and humanitarian Billy Higgins was the one who taught her drums.
Her love for music didn’t fade away when she hit middle school. She took violin lessons and got on stage when she was only seven. She performed with Sweet Strings at the Hollywood Bowl and Royce Hall at UCLA. She began to take music as a serious business, and her musical experiences diversified during high school. Then, she multiplied performances and musical programs. It helped her discovering various music genres and various mentors.
As the years go by, she took part in formations, quartets and teaches drums to kids. Yet, she struggled with finding a music program for the university. She even had to step academically away from music for a while. Once she got her Bachelors’s degree in Hospitality Management from Long Beach State, she hoped to own a restaurant with live music. Except that her love for music was more powerful.
It took her to even more lessons, travels, and recordings. 2018 is the year where she performed in front of a crowd of 30 000 youth in Houston, Texas, during a Christian event called “The ELCA Youth Gathering.” This experience blew her mind. She quickly quit her day job and decided to become a full-time musician.
She recently played behind singer/songwriter Mereba and toured with UMI. Can we just say that these collaborations make sense to us? As these three female artists pledge for women’s recognition and women’s empowerment. On UMI’s EP “Introspection Reimagined”, Aisha’s groove and rhythm perfectly match UMI’s universe. She uses her creativity to express melancholy, joy, rage, determination, and emotional insecurity…
Accents, slower or jerky rhythms add tension to the melody. She connects easily to these emotions because she uses her sensibility to produce music. Moreover, it’s not uncommon to see her lip-syncing while she plays on the drums. She lives music as she plays it. She puts a bit of her personality and her experience into her creations too. By looking at her Instagram account or her YouTube Channel, Aisha appears to be quite a solar character. We dare you to find a photo or a video of her where she isn’t smiling.
Proud of her career choices she can be. Collaborating with Mereba also led her to do a Tiny Desk Concert is yet another great accomplishment.
She makes it look easy when she plays. Her versatility (jazz, neo-soul, R&B) probably makes her one of the most promising musicians of her generation. Her content online proves how approachable she is. She shares covers, original productions, and she even gives guidance to bring people together around her love for drums. Only to show how vibrant music can be in your life.
2. Emmavie: Collaboration over competition
As a young black woman, Aisha Gaillard faced some issues trying to make her place in this industry, and so did Emmavie. The London-based beatmaker-DJ-singer-songwriter-producer loves music since childhood. When she was a little girl, her dad brought her a karaoke machine and she would record her little-girl-prowess on audio cassettes. To this day, she fondly remembers it as her very first audio record.
When still in high school, she used to experiment music through dance. Creating her own dance mixes to rehearse, she realized over time she would preferably produce than dance. It didn’t take long for her to find her signature sound. She mixes 90’s R&B vibes to her love for digital audio representation. The results give sensual tunes that help her express the more complex parts of herself. 2013 is the year where the music took a big part in her life.
Emmavie is an independent artist with no PR nor label. To this day, she already released two EPs, and her debut album “Honeymoon” came out in 2019.
Her career took a new turn when she bounded with others artists over social media. Together, they founded Her Songs, a collective of female artists from around the world. Emmavie declared she used to struggle when it came to trusting somebody in this industry. However, this reunion felt right to all of the members. Her Songs is also composed of London-based artist-producer Marie Dahlstrøm, Colombian/Miami native songwriter-producer Dani Murcia, French/English songwriter The Naked Eye, New Zealand-based songwriter Emily C. Browning, Copenhagen-based graphic designer, and photographer Malthe Milthers, and LA-based artist and producer Maddie Jay.
The music industry encourages women to be competitive towards each other, but not in a good way. According to Emmavie, competition can be toxic and lead you to tread. She admits that collaborating allows all of them to go further in their art. They’re out of their comfort zone, but they’re free to do it in a safe space.
Through discussions, the idea of Her Songs is to create something future generations could look up. They reunite during intense camps to write, produce and share their stories. They first met in L.A. for one week in 2018 to create and deliver their debut EP “Los Angeles.” They renewed the experience in 2019 while in Toronto; two new EPS were born from this reunion.
Different experiences and profiles enrich this project. Women are free to share their thoughts and their stories without any fear of judgment or discrimination. Emmavie regrets that women musicians or producers aren’t considered good enough. They’re often considered beginners before their performance, even when it’s not their first show. Just because you’re a female, then you’re not professional enough. Her Songs stands up against that.
Emmavie herself had to “act like a boy” during her sound art studies. To this day, she still thinks this teaching was gendered and sexist. They were only 2 girls among 300 students. She was the only one in the 2nd year. Emmavie wishes more black female superstars could emerge, and that’s what Her Songs is about. Giving talents the opportunity they deserve.
3. Jenn Clemena: Being at ease with your identity
Indeed, sometimes you have to push your luck. Jenn Clemena learned to play the guitar by herself when she was 13 years old. San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist quickly joined her father in the band of their local church once she mastered her instrument. She took her talent outdoors two years later. She performed around bustling San Francisco areas like Powell Street Bart Station and Pier 39.
She refers to it today as a challenging experience, but this episode undoubtedly forged part of her beginning career. Music helped her being at ease with her identity. She especially expresses how it feels to be a part of the LGBTQ community when you grow up in a religious family. Jenn’s melodies are smooth and soulful.
Her notes lead us into the whirlwind of her thoughts. Her original song “Let Me Know” gives us that feeling. The words repeat themselves and the melody is heady. It’s running in circles, and maybe the guitar’s part expresses what can’t be said.
Jenn Clemena is also used to sharing her passion and creativity with others thanks to social media or her YouTube channel. Furthermore, her videos sometimes tend to be registered in what seems to be her bedroom. It’s an intimate place, but it proves that she’s ready to show herself vulnerable through her art.
Her jam sessions are a place for her to keep exploring her creativity. By doing that in front of her community, she includes the audience in her creation process. She even encourages them to let their imaginations speak for themselves. Other improvisations are welcome during passages of her creations.
“Left 16 bars open at 3:50-4:30 for any of you musicians out there who would like to jam 🙂 Chords are CM7 – D7 – Em” she wrote in the description box on the first Jam session.
It’s not unusual to see men playing guitar, but it’s refreshing to see a young female producer choosing for herself how she’s going to tell her story. Aisha Gaillard, Emmavie, and Jenn Clemena aren’t the only ones trying to find their ways through the jungle. The road might seem far, but patience and determination are keys for female artists to get the recognition they deserve.